Wildlife Avoid the Crowds

Sunday, January 28, 2018 210 pm 54 degrees

Dozens of people are enjoying the beautiful weather on Jim’s Bridge. Scattered white clouds are barely visible. A year ago, this bridge was under at least six feet of water as a result of our relentless January rainstorms.

Today 50 seagulls circle a small island in a “flying frenzy.” They squeak, land and settle down. Others fly, land and fly off to circle the river and return. I see a few ducks walking the riverbank snatching crumbs of food. One Egret is tiptoeing along the bank away from the crowds.

seagulls, Jims Bridge, Fair Oaks, ducks, American River
Seagulls and ducks roam the shore looking for food. The Egret is just beyond the photo’s left edge.

Riding my bike today, I visit the spot where the bike trail overlooks a sandy beach area – a popular picnic spot for families and summer rafters. Another 20 seagulls rest here. Water moves swiftly over a wide expanse of smooth boulders and sandbars that shape the character of this part of the river – given the name San Juan Rapids. I have seen rafts and ice chests overturn more than once here. Today, the river is so low a father and his son stand in ankle deep water where sandbars and boulders are showing line one-third of the way across the river channel.

When I reach Fair Oaks Bridge, I feel overwhelmed by the number of people I see. The entire area surrounding Fair Oaks Bridge and the boat launch ramp is filled with individuals and families enjoying the afternoon. Inside of five minutes, 50 people have crossed the bridge. Cyclists take group photos. Others arrive with fishing poles. Ducks swim toward the center of the river, avoiding the people.

I do my best to ignore the people and focus on a complex spider web attached to the bridge rails. I watch the graceful flight of a seagull and notice how far its wings extend. My visit here is short.

I return to Jim’s Bridge to ride home. Seagulls are still flying in huge circles from the island to the Sunrise Blvd. Bridge and back again. I wonder if this a daily physical activity? Similar to when people walk, run or cycle? Ducks sitting on one side of the river rise into the air, flapping their wings as quickly as possible and land on the opposite shore. Usually that means they spotted a person to feed them. When two take flight, all the others soon follow.

A frantic day on the American River – I saw at least 200 people in 90 minutes on two bridges, the boat launch ramp and during my ride on the Jedediah Smith Memorial Bike Trail within the American River Parkway.